Following the categories given by Fink (2013), I will describe several key features of the interviewing class I’ll be teaching in Spring 2015, including its specific context; what the department and society expects in terms of interview preparation; the nature of the subject matter and how it is situated within the field of Communication; the relevant characteristics of the learners and instructor; and the “special pedagogical challenge” driving the course (pp. 76-77).
The class will be held at the main campus of UAF, a 4-year institution in Fairbanks, Alaska. It is estimated that 15 students will enroll in the class. That is approximately the number of students needed for the class to “make’ its minimum. The class is a 200-level offered from the Department of Communication that will be open to all levels of undergraduate students. Class meets two nights a week for 1.5 hours per session, and the course will be delivered primarily via live classroom instruction with some video sessions possible if the instructor is traveling or otherwise unavailable in person.
The course will be focused on employment interviews, teaching skills relevant for the role of interviewee AND interviewer. According to Forbes (2012) online, the average person stays at a job only 4.4 years, and millenials are expected to stay for an average of less than 3 years. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that employment interviews will be a recurring situation most people will face throughout their adult lives. Based on my experience, interviewees expect the interviewer to be prepared, attentive and fair. Those of us who have been interviewers expect interviewees to be confident, engaged and knowledgeable.
Because employment interviews can affect one’s income and career progression, it is also reasonable to assume that society places a high value on “good” interviewing skills. The UAF Dept. of Communication, realizing the need for instructional support of this skill-building, successfully argued to fund a class on interviewing. UAF’s curricular goals are reflected in the proposal document submitted for the course, in which the head of the Dept. of Communication wrote, “I do think that it may have a positive affect on programs such as Nursing, Marketing, Justice, or Business to mention a few. Basically any program that has an ‘interviewing’ component or necessity will benefit from the course.”
Though many popular press articles try to convince job-seekers that there are “right” answers to interview questions, and that employees just have to ask the “right” questions to build a good workforce, I would argue that the subject matter is actually divergent. What questions are best and what answers go over well are largely dependent on the localized communication situation. Interviewing is “primarily cognitive” but there are some physical aspects related to nonverbal behavior that are also important. Eye contact, smiling, handshakes, and other physical behaviors are addressed as part of the skill-building. Interviewing as a field of study has seen various fads and new trend come and go; there are “competing paradigms” where questions can be behavioral, historical, hypothetical, etc. Sometimes it’s just a conversation; other times you are asked to perform a task.
The course is an elective and will be offered in the evening, so there is a chance that both full-time traditional students and working adults will be attending. The prerequisite is the basic English course, so students should have college-level writing abilities. However, their experience with interviews may vary widely, as can their reasons for enrolling. Some may be using it to bolster their degrees in professional communication or public relations; others may be taking it as professional development. I will have to survey the class at the beginning of the semester to learn more about their history and motivations. Prior experience is not necessarily a plus, as some students may have to un-learn some bad habits or myths.
As the instructor, I am bringing some experience to the table, having taught the course (same book and format) for two semesters at Purdue University; this will be my first time teaching it at UAF. I feel that this is in my “zone of competence” because over the past two years I have presented on this subject for Staff Appreciation Day and for 4-H leaders and youth in order to keep up my skills. Overall, I’d say my “challenge” is that students often feel overwhelmed by or apprehensive of interviews because the power is imbalanced and the stakes can be high. By having students practice the process step-by-step and critically reflect on what’s happening, I can help students build skills that will help them advocate for themselves and feel like they have more agency in the process.
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Meister, J. (2012). Job hopping is the new ‘normal’ for millenials: Three ways to prevent a human resource nightmare. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/